By Dr Aparaajita Pandey
The comments that the results of the Brazilian Presidential election have elicited have a range that is exponentially greater than the margin with which Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, once again became the President of Brazil. While some were quick to label this moment as ‘Back to the Future’ the future doesn’t even look remotely close to what it was when Lula first became the President of Brazil.
The world at large seems much more divided in their preferences about Bolsonaro and Lula than the voting pattern that has been followed by Brazilians. Some could argue that such a minuscule margin has more to do with the barricades and delay caused by the Brazilian Highway Patrols that were supposedly in cohort with Jair Bolsonaro’s narrative of a stolen election; however, one cannot help but wonder how much of a difference would lesser traffic have made to the final outcome of the election.
The tenacity around their choice of leader when it came to the Brazilians was more easily evident in the extremes of the socio – economic range and racial and gender minorities. This is not to dismiss the will of the people or to belittle the magnitude of the political theatre of the country but, to highlight the need for further study in the subject of voting patterns of Brazilians and not be satisfied by a convenient grouping of the victory with that of the left of centre victories in the region.
Announcing that the Brazilian people were frustrated with Bolsonaro’s divisive politics would have been an easier rationale to defend if 49 per cent of the voters had not voted for him. The love for Lula and the familiarity with his rule as well as his inclusive political rhetoric could have been a singular answer for the shift from right to left in Brazil, had he won with a considerable margin.
While there could be a plethora of non – simplistic answers to this result which would make an intense dive into the discourse around intersectionality of race, socioeconomics, gender and marginalised communities of the Brazilian state; an irrevocable consequence of this result would be the changes that can be expected under the Lula regime.
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What is being dubbed as a new era for Brazil might not be the highway to recovery that most Brazilians would like to see. During the first few tenures under Lula’s presidency, Brazil had entered into a commodity market Supercycle. The Brazilian economy had seen unprecedented growth primarily due to the boom in the commodity market that was mainly fueled by the massive demand from China. The same precipice has not presented itself this time around. The country’s economy is not stuck into an infinite cycle of production and sales, instead it is in need of structural reform and measures that guarantee the bridging of the extreme wealth gap.
However, China would play a significant role in the Brazilian future. While Bolsonaro’s rhetoric had been inward looking and often disparaging of the Chinese, despite being a part of BRICS; Lula has mentioned becoming a part of the massive infrastructural project of the Chinese or the BRI. Argentina became a part of the BRI and any significant economic benefits of it are yet to present themselves; however, Lula does believe that becoming a member of the BRI would benefit the country and also bring China and Brazil closer in BRICS; which could now be strategically important as BRICS is now contemplating opening itself to membership from other nations as well.
Another change that can be expected is a closer relationship between Brazil and the US. While Bolsonaro modelled himself after Trump and since the change of power to Biden, Brazil began to distance itself from the US; Biden and Lula seem to have a much better relationship. The perceived similarity in the political outlook for Lula and Biden as well as the US’ endeavour to seem to support regimes that are widely acknowledged as democracies do give them a better chance at a closer relationship than a possible second term for Bolsonaro.
Brazil is rife with inequality and differences, under Bolsonaro these differences were highlighted further, and the discrimination became more widespread, however, the judiciary and the electoral system of the country have proven their mettle during these elections. It is indicative that though Brazil is a relatively young democracy, it has a strength that can withstand severe blows to its foundations; one can only hope that this remains true for the future.
The author is an independent political analyst and has a PhD in Latin American Studies from School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.
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